Chocolatiers break with tradition in pursuit of intensified flavors.
It was the spring of 2004. I was on a brisk walk through the streets of Paris en route to the Richart chocolate shop at 258 Boulevard Saint-Germain during one of my visits where I catch up with the latest chocolate and pastry trends sweeping through the city. Upon entering the store, I was greeted by an immaculately coiffured attendant who offered me a sample from their newest spring collection. She pointed to one of the trademark tiny ganache-filled squares and explained how the filling was made using fruity olive oils in place of cream and an infusion of aromatic plants. I eagerly devoured the sample as this was my first experience with this approach to ganache. There was a delicate flavor of olive oil and herb that followed the chocolate and a soft and pleasurable mouthfeel you would expect from a well-made ganache of a master chocolatier. Without hesitation, I bought a half-dozen flavors and exited the shop bound for the nearest metro stop leading back to my apartment. It was a warm day, so I knew the delicate squares were in jeopardy. I boarded the metro with several stops in front of me, and as the train slowly filled to capacity after each stop, hope was fading quickly. At Place de la Nation, I politely pushed my way off the train, ran up the escalator and out onto the street with only two blocks to go. Once in the apartment, I nervously pried the bag open and confirmed my worst fear: they didn’t make it. My precious chocolate cargo had melted into a single pool of colorful swirls. I sat in front of the apartment fan and enjoyed them as best I could, but I regret not getting the chance to savor each combination as Monsieur Richart had intended. The memory of that first sample, however, stayed with me and has inspired my own creative work with ganache since that time.
Ganache is the center of the universe for a chocolatier, a combination of a few simple ingredients, but one that demands careful attention to detail to achieve perfection. Your selection of chocolate, the delicate balance of creative flavors, and your ability to create silky mouthfeel through a perfect emulsion will set your ganaches apart from those of other chocolatiers. Through correct proportioning and proper handling via agitation and temperature, the classic cream-based ganache (along with its typical partner ingredients of butter, liquid flavorings and sometimes glucose) delivers a harmonious fat-in-water suspension that has been perfected in the industry. Cream’s role in this formula is to provide water that aids in this suspension while also offering fat for mouthfeel and to carry flavor. But cream itself offers little flavor and, in fact, dairy products are known to have a flavor-muting impact on chocolate. So what happens if you remove the cream? Chocolatiers are developing creamless ganaches with the goal of intensifying flavors, offering alternatives for sensitive diets, and developing formulas that better spotlight the unique flavor profiles of origin-specific chocolate.
Michel Richart, Richart Chocolates.
Michael Richart of RICHART Chocolates (www.richart-chocolates. com) is a pioneer in the area of creamless ganache. It was back in 1987 that he started developing ganache recipes using the juice of wild Alsatian raspberries in place of the cream, depending on the cocoa butter in the chocolate to provide the only fat. His goal was to research the best possible way to reinforce the aroma and flavors of a fruit-based ganache. He continued to develop in this area using the juice of pears, strawberries, and red and black fruits. The unique approach he developed allowed him to add more fruit to the ganache and as a result upped its flavor without sacrificing texture.
It was in 2004 that he launched his Le Nez dans les Herbes collection (the one that melted in my bag) that was an infusion of aromatic plants from Provence (such as basil, thyme, rosemary, anise, and fennel) into high-quality olive oils. His intention in using the olive oil as a replacement for the cream was twofold: first, to create a softer texture than can be achieved with a cream-based ganache that contains butter, and second to create a ganache that was easier on the digestion because, as he states, “the virtues of olive oil are well known and numerous.” Also, as monsieur Richart explains, olive oil as a pure fat absorbs flavors better than the fat available in cream or butter. “The challenges of a creamless ganache are the same as a traditional ganache regarding the fact that it’s all about balance, but you must pay attention to the tannin level in the chocolate and to the PH of the juice from the fruits,” he advises. Due to its success, RICHART still uses the recipe developed in 1987 in its collections, and he continues to innovate in this area.
Damian Allsop, Damion Allsop Chocolates.
In Britain, Chocolatier Damian Allsop (www.damianallsop. com) has forged a unique path and made himself one of the most well-known chocolatiers in the area of creamless ganache. Chef Allsop uses local spring water, fruit purees, vegetable purees, unrefined sugars, oils, and nut purees in place of cream, but he is most recognized for his water ganaches whose development came about in 2002. These have proven particularly successful with his use of high-end, plain dark chocolate. Chef Allsop’s goal with his water ganache is to simply deliver flavor in the best possible way, enabling the consumer to taste the true character of the chocolate to respect what he states is “the amazing chocolates with complex flavors” being produced by the small, artisan chocolate makers who have come onto the scene in recent years. But he warns that simplifying the components of a ganache in this way can also highlight a chocolate’s defects. He notes that his process for his creamless ganache makes a better, more stable emulsion because of a well-balanced recipe and because he tempers the ganache to control the formation of the correct fat crystals. As a result, his water ganaches typically have a shelf life of eight weeks. He emphasizes that each time you change an ingredient you must rebalance your formula, and Chef Allsop confided that more of his approaches will be revealed in an upcoming book.
In Florida, Bill Brown of William Dean Chocolates (www. williamdeanchocolates.com) has been developing creamless ganaches since 2008. His most popular one is the port with fig, made by pureeing dried figs, cherries, and plums that have been reconstituted overnight in port. He creates a caramel using brown sugar, butter, honey, and cinnamon and adds this to the puree, cooks it a bit further, then adds the milk chocolate and a little more port; every ingredient in this ganache delivers a huge impact of harmonious flavors. Chef Brown states “I think the fruit and port combination has been good because it adds a rich texture that makes up for the loss of cream. The emulsion we get is quite different because of the high amount of fruit puree or paste we make with the rehydrated fruits. It has a pretty dense viscosity, similar to a Fig Newton. We add the port while the puree is still very warm so we don’t break the emulsion. We also tend to use a Robot Coupe or food processor to force the emulsion.” He goes on to state that “one advantage of this ganache is that it is easier to reheat and get a nice emulsion a second time. Traditional ganache, I find, requires more care to get a good emulsion when reheating, and personally I don’t think it is ever as good as when it’s made fresh. One ganache I will make again is a butternut squash with coconut and curry. We use coconut milk instead of cream so it is a creamless ganache. The challenge here is getting the fiber of the squash processed enough to not have an off-putting texture. We’ve made it before with customers really liking it; it was inspired by a winter bisque soup.” Chef Brown also likes to infuse herbs into creamless purees as a way to add additional flavor without changing the fat content. Herbs can absorb water from cream and therefore leave you with an undetermined amount of fat, making the ganache a little more unpredictable.
Katherine Clapner, Dude Sweet Chocolate.
Katherine Clapner in Dallas, owner of Dude, Sweet Chocolate (www.dudesweetchocolate.com), one of the more renegade and successful chocolatiers in the country (Katherine was one of Dessert Professional’s top ten chocolatiers in 2012), uses unique ingredients such as hemp seed oil and hemp seed butter in her creamless ganaches. She also likes to use olive oil, pecan oil, banana puree, beet juice, carrot puree, and carrot juice. Chef Clapner states that fruit and vegetable butters work the best, especially those with a higher starch content such bananas, pears and beets. “For our development of new ganaches, the volatility has been mostly based upon shelf life and break-through of the exterior shell of chocolate rather than the ganache itself breaking. There is an old saying ‘keep like things together,’ and I find that is really relevant to temperatures. For us, we have no real proper equipment so we have to use rubber spatulas and immersion blenders, and they never let us down,” she says. “I look at ganache in separate parts. For each ingredient that I want to use, I start with its flavor profile then match the chocolate that will best enhance the ingredients and vice-versa. If I use an ingredient instead of cream all other choices revolve around that ingredient. What kind of butter? Is it beurre noisette? Do I use herbs to accent? Do I use citrus or vinegar for the acid? Which chocolate is going to play up the flavor as well as shine on its own? Flavor dictates direction.” Chef Clapner is excited about her plans for working with an “animal- and sugar-free truffle that you would have no idea is the case.” She advises that you play, write notes, and really read a recipe through to understand why it is written the way it is. “Experiment. What’s the worst that can happen?”
Chef Brown sums it up well by stating “I think that while it is important to respect the old processes, it is also a respect to the profession to explore new ways to make chocolates. Ultimately, it is about personal taste and preferences but in an age where health is such a concern, it makes sense to explore options that will allow people to continue to enjoy chocolates. If that means using options other than cream, I’m all for it. We live in a very exciting time for chocolate as there has been an influx of new and creative minds who challenge themselves to produce high quality chocolates in a new world of their own creation. We will only find new techniques by experimenting and that requires thinking ‘outside the box’ (or rather ‘outside the pot’), and I’m excited to be part of that generation of chocolatiers. Change with creativity is progress, and such is the case with creamless ganache. It should be an exciting journey.”
Zach Townsend is owner of Pure Chocolate Desserts by Zach in Dallas, TX. He is a chocolatier, professional baker and the translator of Larousse On Cooking and Nature’s Table: Refined Recipes from an Alpine Chalet.
Find Bill Brown’s Port and Fig Creamless Ganache, Katherine Clapner’s Chinatown Truffles, and Damion Allsop’s Cremosa recipes in the DessertProfessional.com Recipe section or click the links below.